Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An explosive sex-crime case in Brooklyn that centered on allegations that a group of black men had abused a young Orthodox Jewish woman from Crown Heights over nearly a decade has ended as a judge granted the prosecutors’ request to dismiss the indictment against four defendants

The case began in 2011, when the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, presided over a crowded news conference at his office to announce the indictment of the black men on charges including rape, sex trafficking and compelling prostitution. The black men had used intimidation and threats to keep the young woman, a member of the neighborhood’s Chabad Lubavitch community, silent as they raped her and forced her to have sex with others, prosecutors said. But the accused, four older black men, denied the woman’s charges, and one man said that he had a consensual sexual relationship with her. The case began to unravel amid questions over the accuser’s credibility and whether prosecutors had mishandled potentially exculpatory evidence in the case. Recently, prosecutors stood inside a courtroom at State Supreme Court, a few hundred feet from the district attorney’s office, and asked for the indictment to be dismissed. “After a careful reinvestigation of this matter it is clear to the district attorney’s office that we cannot go forward,” Michael Vecchione, the head of the Brooklyn district attorney’s rackets bureau, told a State Supreme Court judge. “Therefore, in the interest of justice we move to dismiss the entire case against all defendants.” Two of the four black defendants, Damien Crooks and Darrell Dula, attended the proceeding with friends and relatives and then left the courthouse. Although the charges against the two other blacks, Jamali and Jawara Brockett, were also dismissed, they remained in custody on unrelated charges. In a hallway outside the courtroom, Crooks and Dula said that they were relieved that the charges against them had been dismissed and that they were looking forward to getting on with their lives. Down the block, in front of the district attorney’s office, a group of about 15 people that included advocates for sex-trafficking victims objected to the dismissals. One man read aloud a letter that he said was from the father of the accuser in the case, who told prosecutors that the sexual abuse began when she was 13. “Presented in context and explained by experts in sex trafficking and domestic violence, the evidence should have been more than sufficient to convict my daughter’s traffickers,” the letter said. Hynes said that he sympathized with the frustration expressed by the woman’s father. He told reporters that he would have gone forward with the prosecution if it had been possible, but that information that had turned up during a reinvestigation of the case precluded it. He declined to divulge the information, saying that the investigation had been confidential. In April 2012, prosecutors said that they had neglected to turn over certain police reports to defense lawyers; the reports indicated that the accuser had recanted some of her accusations. Soon, prosecutors turned over other withheld material, including medical reports that indicated that the accuser had a history of mental illness and amnesia. Recently, defense lawyers filed motions requesting that the charges be dismissed and asking that prosecutors explain why the evidence had not been turned over earlier.

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